Will European agencies take clean oil enforcement action?
The jury is still out – so to speak – on whether or not there will be any action taken as result of the recent ETRMA findings relating to clean oil compliance in tyres. The official body responsible for enforcement of the Reach rules in the UK, the Environment Agency (EA) was one of the first to go on the record in response to the ETRMA’s findings. In a statement entitled “ETRMA press release – our view” the EA summed up its position.
“We have received information from…ETRMA about possible breaches of REACH restriction 50 concerning PAHs in extender oils and tyres. This information was released by the ETRMA in a press release [on] 1 March 2011…” EA said in the statement dated 7 March.
Confirming that the information provided stated that a number of tyres on sale within the UK and Europe have been analysed using ISO 21461 to determine compliance with the restriction, EA continued: “Three tyres were purchased in the UK that are alleged to be non-compliant. A further 8 tyres were purchased in Belgium, Germany and France that are also alleged to be non-compliant.”
Finally, the Environment Agency explained that it is “currently undertaking further investigations regarding this information,” but declined to comment on “the validity of the [ETRMA] information provided.” Despite the fact that the UK courts could impose a theoretically unlimited fine and/or up to two years imprisonment upon conviction of Reach-related offences (a wide range of similar penalties can potentially be enforced across the EU member states), it is not at all clear whether any action will actually be taken by the EA in this instance.
Speaking to Tyres & Accessories, Richard Hawkins, the Environment Agency chemical advisor who devised the enforcement strategy that the so-called “clean oil” legislation falls under, explained that the EA would not take action based on the information supplied by the ETRMA alone. Instead the enforcement body would want to independently verify the ETRMA’s findings. However, owing to the fact the PAH oil enforcement programme that had been running for roughly 10 months prior to the publication of ETRMA’s data came to an end around the time these findings came to light, the Environment Agency is “not currently verifying” the data itself. And therefore no action will be taken in the short term.
Hawkins confirmed that the Environment Agency has been in talks with trade associations representing both importers and manufacturers of tyres and commended them for their proactive approach and cooperation. He made it clear that the Agency is by no means ruling this out and the decision whether or not to repeat the enforcement programme or start a more targeted strategy is still to be made. In any case the decision to take action “depends both on resources and verification.”
Looking further across Europe, ETRMA secretary general Fazilet Cinaralp told T&A that as of 30 March the French ministry of competition is investigating the PAH compliance issue. Furthermore two German states are said to be “taking steps to test tyres.”